A fine all-round performance from Marcus Maxwell helped Balliol overcome a subdued St Catherine’s team, propelling the Jowett Walk outfit to the top of the Division One table. The postgraduate’s quick-fire thirty followed his three first-innings wickets, as Balliol limited Catz to 136, a disappointing total on a decent batting surface.
Having won the toss and chosen to bowl, St. Catherine’s would have been hoping that their two openers could emulate their performance of two days earlier, where they both made centuries in a high-scoring Cuppers match against Magdalen.
Balliol ‘skipper Alex Hawkins-Hooker responded to the challenge by deciding to open the bowling with off-spinner Alex Braczkowski, who justified his captain’s faith in him by sending down a series a maidens, while fellow opening-bowler Rob Frome also bowled well after an uncertain start, trapping Catz’s Hugh Brannan LBW with the final bowl of his spell.
A second wicket followed shortly after, with Braczkowski finding turn and bounce in a delivery that the batsman could only steer to Maxwell at gully, who took a stunning one-handed catch low to his left, in what was to prove only the beginning of his match-winning performance.
Although the wickets did not fall as rapidly as Balliol would have wanted, Catz’s middle-order players struggled to pick up regular runs off Balliol’s quintet of medium-pacers. It was Maxwell who eventually managed the breakthrough, striking three times in quick succession.
Although Catz managed to surpass New/St.Hilda’s score in the first match of the season, something that did not look unikely when they were struggling at 52 for 5 after twenty overs, their final total of 136 never looked like it would be high enough.
A steady opening partnership from openers Head and Wilmott-Smith set the scene for Maxwell, introduced following the dismissal of Wilmott-Smith. Balliol’s run-rate suddenly rocketed from a gentle two to a destructive eight, with Catz’s two slow left-armers being deposited alternatively over cow-corner and long-off.
By the time he departed for a destructive 30 the game was all but won, and despite losing the wickets of Head and Wight, Balliol coasted home with six wickets to spare.
Captain Hawkins-Hooker was full of praise for Maxwell as well as off-spinner Braczkowski: ‘Marcus is the most destructive player I’ve seen in college cricket and tends to take a particular liking to flighted off spin, while Alex was brilliant.
‘It was a really controlled spell of quick, frustrating off spin – he dropped it short a couple of times which gave them a couple of boundaries but other than that I think they hardly scored off him.’
PHOTO / Vicki Devine